Asymmetric side-chain engineering in semiconducting polymers: a platform for greener processing and post-functionalization of organic electronics†
Organic semiconducting polymers are a powerful platform for the design of next-generation technologies due to their excellent optoelectronic properties and solution processability, allowing access to low-cost and scalable manufacturing techniques such as spin-coating, slot-die coating and roll-to-roll printing. However, their extended π-conjugation results in low solubility, requiring the use of toxic halogenated solvents to generate thin films and devices. Furthermore, accessible post-functionalization of semiconductors toward the development of multifunctional devices and sensors remains a challenge due to limited solid-state chemistry for alkyl side chains. In this work, an asymmetric side-chain engineering approach was used to introduce terminal hydroxyl moieties alongside traditional solubilizing branched alkyl chains into an isoindigo-based polymer. The hydroxyl moieties led to significantly improved processability in alcohol-based solvents without sacrificing electronic performance in thin film organic field-effect transistors. Solid state morphologies of the thin films processed from both alcohol-based and traditional halogenated solvents were further characterized using atomic force microscopy and grazing incidence wide angle X-ray scattering. Additionally, Cryo-EM was utilized in order to characterize the role of asymmetric side-chain functionality in solution state aggregation. The versatility of this design was further probed using fluorescein isothiocyanate to directly functionalize the asymmetric polymer in thin film. This facile solid-state post-functionalization further demonstrates asymmetric side-chain engineering to be a viable approach toward the development of sustainably manufactured multifunctional electronics.